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St. Lawrence to Collaborate with Brookings on Africa Security

Over the next several years, St. Lawrence University faculty and students will have an exclusive opportunity to work with one of the nation’s leading think-tanks and to participate directly in policy discussions focused on security issues related to the African continent.

The new collaboration will bring together the expertise of St. Lawrence University faculty with scholars at the Brookings Institution, a nonprofit public policy organization based in Washington, D.C. Faculty from St. Lawrence will work alongside Brookings scholars and experts from the Institute’s Africa Growth Initiative in its Global Economy and Development Program. Funding from a private family foundation with ties to St. Lawrence has made it possible for both Brookings and St. Lawrence to study important international relations questions for the next three years.

“St. Lawrence is a national leader in African studies among liberal arts colleges,” said Karl Schonberg, professor of government and associate dean of St. Lawrence's Center for International and Intercultural Studies. “Brookings has invited us to lend our expertise on this topic, and the fact they’re saying this is evidence that we’re really distinguished in this area.”

The Africa Security Initiative will also offer several internships each year to interested St. Lawrence students. Recent graduate Kelly Sampier ’15 of Colton, New York, who had a combined major in African studies and government and recently completed a senior project studying urban planning in Nairobi, Kenya, will participate in a two-month paid internship at Brookings this summer.

As a liberal arts institution, St. Lawrence delivers a strong commitment to both teaching and research, said Matthew Carotenuto, associate professor of history and coordinator of St. Lawrence’s African studies program. As a result of the collaboration with Brookings, St. Lawrence will also have a say in policy-making decisions at the national and international levels.

“Our professors are not only distinguished scholars, they are also teaching the next generation of policy makers,” he said. “African security concerns are complex and rooted in both local and global issues. It is not simply about military aid or diplomacy, it’s about economic development, governance, environmental conservation and much more. Our collaboration with Brookings will allow faculty a students a chance to use lessons from the classroom to influence public policy.”  

St. Lawrence University has had a long and unique commitment to Africa for more than four decades. Its Kenya Semester Program, which has been in existence since 1974, has sent over 2000 students to East Africa. Additional programs led by St. Lawrence faculty regularly take students to Senegal, Ethiopia and Rwanda to learn about African issues from a local perspective. These off-campus experiences have produced a number of notable alumni who have gone on to serve in public office, start non-governmental organizations, NGOs or have senior positions in organizations focused on development, education, environment or public health in Africa. In addition, four St. Lawrence alumni who took part in the University’s Kenya Scholarship Program now serve as members in the National Assembly of Kenya, and a fifth was appointed as a cabinet secretary in 2013.

In 2014, St. Lawrence launched the Engaging Africa Initiative to expand opportunities for students to engage with Africa through coursework, internships and research both on and off-campus. Combined with the Brookings collaboration, the Engaging Africa endowment will further enhance a signature component of off-campus study programs in Africa.

Carotenuto said the Africa Security Initiative will give St. Lawrence faculty the opportunity to engage with policy makers and other leading scholars who are tapped into the Washington, D.C., scene.

“The Brookings mission is to bring scholars in front of key policy makers,” said Carotenuto, who currently serves on the board of directors of the Africa Network, which promotes the study of Africa at liberal arts institutions. “This collaboration adds an important chapter to our long engagement with African issues both on and off-campus.”

Carotenuto is the co-author of the forthcoming book Obama and Kenya: Contested Histories and the Politics of Belonging, which examines the ways identity politics have shaped global debates about Kenya and U.S-African relations during the Obama presidency.

For more information, visit St. Lawrence University’s Africa Studies program